When Kyle Schwarber was carted off the field Thursday after a scary outfield collision with teammate Dexter Fowler, Chicago Cubs fans everywhere held their breath.
Why wouldn't they? We're talking about a former first-round pick with game-changing power who's fresh off a breakout rookie campaign that saw him crack 16 home runs in 69 games.
And we're talking about a franchise that, preseason hype aside, is perennially waiting for the other accursed shoe to drop.
As of this writing, the extent of Schwarber's injuries is unknown. X-rays on his ankle came back negative, per Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune, and an MRI is scheduled for Friday.
Here's the play in question, in case you missed it:
The negative X-rays are already good news, though MLB.com's Carrie Muskat reported a potentially troubling wrinkle:
Even if Schwarber misses significant time, however, the North Side faithful can take heart. Tough as it would be to shelve one of their shiny young pieces, the Cubs are blessed with the depth and versatility to soldier on.
After Schwarber exited Thursday's 14-6 win over the Arizona Diamondbacks in Phoenix in the bottom of the second inning, Kris Bryant slid into left field with Tommy La Stella spelling Bryant at third. Having the reigning National League Rookie of the Year in Bryant ready and waiting to take over is a luxury most teams don't enjoy.
Then there's Jorge Soler, who lost his starting job when the Cubs re-signed Fowler to play center and inserted offseason pickup Jason Heyward in right. Soler is raw defensively, but the 24-year-old Cuban import has the tools to be a special player.
"He's not going to get lost," skipper Joe Maddon told reporters of Soler on Tuesday during the Cubs' series against the Los Angeles Angels. "He's going to play—and he's going to play well—during the course of the season."
Then there's Javier Baez, who is working his way back from a series of injuries, including a thumb bruise. Baez suffered a "setback" and is unlikely to be ready for the team's home opener Monday against the Cincinnati Reds, per Gonzales.
But when the 23-year-old Baez—another first-round pick—returns, he can take reps in the infield. That, in turn, frees up Bryant to log even more time in the outfield, where he played 19 games last season.
Oh, and toss Matt Szczur, who is 3-for-5 with a home run and four RBI on the young season, into the mix as well.
Of course, Schwarber isn't just an outfielder; he also figures to see time behind the dish. There, too, Chicago is covered with veteran receivers Miguel Montero and David Ross.
None of that is to say the Cubs won't miss Schwarber dearly if he's out for an extended period. No doubt long-suffering Cubs boosters with visions of billy goats and Steve Bartman dancing in their heads will heave a weary sigh.
But this is the genius of president of baseball operations Theo Epstein. He built a glistening farm system laden with talent, then he augmented his young forces with offseason cavalry such as Heyward and second baseman Ben Zobrist, who can also play all over the infield and outfield if needed.
Entering the season, FanGraphs projected the Cubbies as the best offensive team in baseball. You don't get there without hitters behind hitters behind hitters.
"The Cubs have scored no fewer than six runs in all three games this season, and while that is a super small sample size, it is representative of what this team can do on an everyday basis," CBS Sports' Mike Axisa noted. "Schwarber is a huge part of the club. There is zero doubt about it. But they have offense to spare as is."
Then Chicago plated 14 runs in its win Thursday against the D-backs, to cement the point.
The best thing for Schwarber, the Cubs and the game would be for the MRI to come back clean and this whole thing to be a cringe-inducing bullet dodged. Whichever laundry you root for, it's always regrettable when a rising star is sidelined.
But that breath-holding moment in Arizona reminded us all of an undeniable fact: These Cubs are loaded. And it'll take a lot more than an injury scare, even a big one, to change that.
All statistics current as of Thursday and courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted.